Whether You Let it Out or Hold it In, New Research Shows That Your Anger Can Corrode Your Health
March 12th, 2004
By Ken McGrath :eCureMe Staff Writer
March 10th, 2004 : Physician Approved
It can ruin your whole day, but a fit of rage can also increase your risk of stroke,
push up your weight and predispose you to smoking.
A host of new studies released in recent months suggests that people should be
monitoring how angry they get in the same way they keep stock of their blood pressure
or cholesterol level.
Men with short tempers and a general antipathy towards others are warping their
hearts and pushing up their stroke risk, according a study published in
Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association on March 2nd.
The report, which draws on personality and cardiovascular health data from over
3,500 men and women, found that men who reported such characteristics as reacting
furiously to criticism, or wanting to hit someone when frustrated, were 20% more
likely to die from any cause than calmer study participants and had a 10%
increased chance of developing atrial fibrillation.
Atrial fibrillation, otherwise known as arrhythmia, is an irregular heartbeat.
In those who suffer from it, two of the heart’s chambers quiver instead of
beating. Since the regular beating motion of the heart is what keeps blood flowing,
when it quivers, blood doesn’t move effectively and is more likely to form
clots. The more clots from, the greater the likelihood that one may reach the
brain, thus causing a stroke.
The type of hostility towards others that can go hand-in-hand with high
levels of anger also invites cardiovascular dysfunction. Men in the study who
agreed with statements like "I’ve often met supposed experts who were
no smarter than me" and "I frequently work under people who take credit
for my efforts" were 30% more likely to develop atrial fibrillation than
those with less defensive and suspicious attitudes.
More study results, delivered at the American Heart Association’s annual
conference on cardiovascular disease and prevention shortly after the first
report appeared, noted that teenagers who aren’t great at handling their
anger are more likely to be overweight.
The study tracked 160 young people for three years, periodically measuring their
waistlines and styles of anger expression. Two groups of teens stood out.
Those who over-expressed anger - frequently losing their tempers -
were found to be heavier than their more moderate peers. The same was true of
teens that constantly suppressed their negative feelings. The more dysfunctional
a subject’s method of handling anger, the heavier they tended to be the
report’s author told reporters.
Exactly why anger expression styles were tied to weight levels wasn’t
immediately clear. Researchers involved speculated that teens that have trouble
expressing their anger might be less social, and thus spend more time
indoors - close to snacks and away from physical activity. Another potential
explanation is that, without an adequate outlet for their feelings, young people
may calm themselves with fatty comfort foods.
Born To Smoke
An anxious, aggressive and angry personality may also indicate a genetic template
that makes some people "born to smoke".
Researchers from the University of California at Irvine have found that certain
hostile personality traits may be tied to the same genetic variation that creates
susceptibility to nicotine addiction. Their work, released in January, put a group
of high and low anger volunteers (some smokers, some not) through a brain scan test.
After being categorized by their personality types, subjects put on nicotine
patches. As the nicotine made its way through their systems, the subjects’
brains were imaged using positron emission tomography, more commonly known as
PET scans. The scans of low-hostility volunteers didn’t show any
significant changes in response to the nicotine. Higher-hostility volunteers,
however, did display metabolic changes in the brain. In addition, the higher-
hostility volunteers needed a higher dose of nicotine to elicit the same chemical
reactions in the brain that low-hostility volunteers experienced at low doses.
The scientists concluded that even if someone with a fiery personality never touched
tobacco, they would still have a predisposition to addiction.
Put together, the increased risks of stroke, weight gain and predisposition to smoking
can invite a host of other, equally serious problems: heart disease, diabetes and
cancer are just a few. The first step towards a healthy lifestyle, it would seem,
starts by always trying to look on the bright side.
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